I was born in Xi'an, China and attended art school at the Xi'an Academy Of Fine Arts, where I worked as an instructor after graduating. I moved to Japan to attend graduate school at the Kyoto City University of Arts, IAMAS and lived there for 14 years before returning to China to teach art once more. I'm now based in the United States.
My first series of paintings was based upon my travels in Tibet. The Chinese government at that time granted art students a small stipend to travel to different areas of China and paint what they saw. I was struck both by Tibet’s landscape—the uninterrupted, limitless views of deserts and grasslands, as well as the traditional costumes and unique lifestyle of its people.
In Kyoto I created a series of paintings inspired by the 1995 Hanshin earthquake in Kobe. In Japan, nature is both loved and feared; feelings for nature are ambivalent. In these abstract paintings I sought to express this dichotomy, portraying the earth as a force that can uproot life, shift it, and even destroy it. Everyone’s life is changed, and everyone is forced to reevaluate their place on earth.
I recently have returned to painting scenes of Tibet in an effort to reexamine the relationship between myself and the country from which I was absent for so long. I call this series “Horizon” because in each painting the horizon is omnipresent, signifying our own beginning and end, looming in the background of each of our lives.
—Ma Chao, 2016